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The gift & the pledge
#1
A delivery?

Curious. Nythadri kept no ties to her world before the Tower, and knew of no one who might have seen fit to send her a gift. Her family, perhaps … at a push. Every letter they’d ever sent had fed the flames in her hearth, unread, and they had consequently stopped arriving a long time ago - before she had even earned the serpent ring. But if not them, that didn't leave a lot of potentials to speculate. Farune? Hardly likely. A mistake, perhaps. A misunderstanding. Or something mundane that would make sense once she'd received it. She pushed the door to the small office without hesitation, strangely bereft of the sorts of excited inquisitiveness one would usually expect at so uncommon an event.

An Aes Sedai sat behind the desk; Brown, Nythadri would imagine by the stacks of paper scribbled with ink. Ledgers and piles of letters arranged into some obscure order decorated the desk and shelved walls; checked, presumably, before being collected by their intended recipients. Or held until such as time as delivery was deemed appropriate. The ageless face did look up, but only to nod towards the waiting courier. A man as non-descript as the precise and smooth lines of his uniform.

“Nythadri Vanditera?”


She nodded, and held out her hand impatiently, eager to be away. She had been called directly for this, hailed down by a breathless and excited novice because the courier had been instructed to relinquish his goods personally – had in fact calmly refused to leave it in the hands of the Tower, which insofar as the Aes Sedai (and even Nythadri herself) were concerned, was as good as the hands of Nythadri Vanditera. It fit in the open palm of her hand, with a weight that suggested something significant within. Curious now, despite herself, she curled her fingers around the hard edges of the box. There was nothing outwardly to identify it; it was just plain, neat, unexceptional. She prolonged the mystery of it, looking askance at the sister. It would be preferable to retreat to the privacy of her own rooms to open it, though doubtful she would be offered the luxury.

“You’ll need to open it here, dear.”
Spoken disinterestedly, amidst the scratching of a quill; the Aes Sedai did not look up.

She shrugged, disinclined to argue, opened the box, pulled the object out. And folded back the wrappings.

A falcon in flight, with a flash of aqua caught in its outstretched claws. Darkness rushed the edges of Nythadri’s vision, and it felt like falling. Falling ever so hard and fast. The sigil of her brother. Lying stark in her pale palm. So unexpected it tugged her sharply off kilter, wrenched her somewhere dark and distant. Seconds trickled past unnoticed, her expression deathly still. Then, as numbness receded to sensation, ice stung her palm and prickled up the length of her arm. If the Aes Sedai had not been there, she would have snatched her hand free of its burden. But composure demanded more of her than rash impulse, no matter how sickening the twist in her stomach. A blood-soaked memory battled for consciousness among the dim-lit halls of things better left forgotten. “Who sent you?”
Her eyes flicked from the pendant to the courier, lethal as black ice. A detached control robbed any warmth from her gaze, and she spoke again before he even had a chance to answer. “Who is it from?”


She was very still, her voice steely and measured, expression deceptively blank. But the world was vibrating around the edges. Punctuated by a cascading rampage of buried memory. Tash’s face was predominant among the recollection, like his ghost shared the room, fingering the cold gold that had once lain against his warm and beating heart. Who would send such a thing? And perhaps more importantly, why. Fury mixed with disbelief, the pain tight in her chest. Light send her hand was not shaking; it felt like it might, and her grip on the hard edges of the pendant intensified. Squeezed her fingers white.

“It was sent anonymously, Accepted.”


“Anonymously,”
she repeated, and the word tasted bitter. Who. Had. Sent. It?

“I don’t want it.”
Quick steps brought her forward. She pressed it against his chest, crinkling the smooth front of his uniform. “Take it back.”
But he did not move. Calm grey eyes accepted her hostility placidly, even as he was pierced by the uncompromising demand made eerie in her pale gaze. His hands were clasped behind his back. With the Aes Sedai perched behind, she would not be able to sway him; though he might have noticed, in that moment, how the demand in her expression faded to a desperate plea. If he did, it did not cause him to falter.

“Then do as you will with it, Accepted. I am only charged with its safe delivery.”
His gaze broke to check the Aes Sedai, and he bowed his head. Retreated. Left her staring at a wall, with a weight of guilt hanging heavy in her hand.

“Accepted?”


Steeling her breath, blinking back the gaping black hole of the last few moments, she turned. The sister waved her forward, arm outstretched. A flick of Nythadri’s hand, a flash of gold, and the pendant fell from her palm, swinging like a pendulum suspended from her finger. The Aes Sedai cupped it in her grasp, and she snatched her hand back gladly. The chain clinked against the desk. For a moment saidar brightened her periphery, followed by a buzz of foreign weaves. Then the sister shrugged, and held it aloft. If she knew anything of Nythadri’s past, of what this trinket meant, she did not show it. “There is nothing to prevent you keeping it, child.”


In the corridor beyond, Nythadri’s heart was pounding, and bile stung her throat. A message? Anger. Her jaw locked. A warning? Fury so white she could feel herself ripping apart at the seams, for the person who had been so cruel as to send this to her. When she closed her eyes she saw Tash's face, and when she opened them she saw his pendant. A memory and a guilt she had fought so hard to bury, to forget, to accept in icy stillness. She placed it back in the box, and forced the lid shut.
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#2
It sat on her desk, free of its box but still nestled in its packaging. From across the tiny room, Nythadri sat on the bed, legs folded, head resting against the cold stone wall. Staring at it.

She had cared little for her own identity within the family’s structure, and had freely poured her own trinkets into her father’s open palm when he shame-facedly asked. Of all her possessions, only her instruments had earned her obstinate defence. Not so for Tashir. Her brother had been arrogant, proud, stubborn; though he, of course, had called these things loyalty, dignity, self-respect. He had hated that pendant; the gaudy gold, the ornate detail. But the day their father had come to reclaim it, he’d worn it doggedly - determined to keep their House above water, to grasp tight their noble identities and the riches he thought should be inherent to their family name. It had hung round his neck the night three men had beaten the life from him. And when she looked at it, she remembered.

It had never been recovered. Stolen for its value, or with the intention of obscuring the identity of the body it had adorned. There was no reason for it to resurface after so long, let alone into her hands. A threat? A warning? Why delivered to her and not her father? And from whom? Years had passed since Tashir’s death, and a thousand scandals and conspiracies had doubtless passed through Caemlyn’s rumour mill since. Such a thing should have been lost to dust, wholly forgotten. Yet someone had either discovered or kept it secret since Tashir’s murder. If her father had sunk into further financial turmoil, it was nothing to her. If this was a threat from his old debtors, it was not one she feared. It seemed unlikely anyway; it was a brave bailiff who threatened a daughter of the Tower. Simply an act of cruelty, then? But who would care to punish her so?

Or... light forbid, a construction of the Aes Sedai’s? Some light-forsaken lesson or test. To crown her guilt and misery with White Tower salvation. It tipped her dangerously close to old hatreds. How could things be so clear one moment and so dark the next? She could find out who sent it. She knew she could. Just as she knew she could have chased Tashir’s killers; spent years routing out the mystery of the cover-up and delivering punishment. But she never had. Sadness pushed up through her chest, threatened to shake her into something human and weak, if she let it. When she had confessed her guilt to Jai, she had felt that weakness; had realised how stagnant the old wound had become beneath the apathy. Had she ever even grieved for her brother?

She closed her eyes, locked her jaw. Saidar flooded so pure it was painful. She grew so bright, drew so agonisingly deep, that for a split-second she was the deer who saw the flight of the fatal arrow before it pierced her breast. Fear of burning herself out dimmed the need to press her boundaries; she gasped air, and control wrought an intense sort of composure. Mind charred of thought, tears banished, she stared at it. And hated that it was here, stoking emotions and memories better left to rot. Resolute, she stood, crossed the short space of the room and slammed it back in its box. Her knuckles grew white over the edges before she let go, then scraped back the chair from her desk and sat. She would not chase herself in tormented circles discovering who had sent it. Banishing the box to the edges of her vision, she pulled out a blank sheaf of parchment. And what in the light do I write? It was rare for words to come haltingly, but it was years since she had written her father. Ink blotted and scribbled several pages, those ending crumpled in frustration on the floor, before her pen stilled. Apologies, insults, accusations, sincerities, cordialities. Hundreds of words he would never read. And less than a dozen that he ever would. 'This came into my possession. I thought you would appreciate it. N.'
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#3
A few days later

She stood on tip-toe to scrutinise the damage in the mirror, running her fingers over the pink pinch marks making a path down the side of her ribs. Those will bruise, she mused, sinking her heels back onto the cold floor. Talin’s aggression in her efforts to distract Nythadri from her Hundred Weaves could be downright appalling. Not that her fellow Accepted did not receive as well as she gave, if Nythadri’s predilections did not leave such ugly marks. She pulled her dress back over her hips, frowning at the sting of fabric pulled across too-tender skin. How much force had Talin used to leave such lasting reminders? Light-forsaken woman.

She sighed, lacing fingers back through her dark hair, and turned away. Sweat sheened her skin, the only other external testament to such a vigorous training session. Her eyes longed for the solace of black. How many times today had she dropped her threads and suffered the cruel black-lashes of those pointless weaves? Improvement came with practise, but despair hovered at the edge of every incremental victory. She sunk her weight into the ladder-backed chair at her desk, but refused the urge to sprawl over the desk-top and sleep. How irritating that one needed another to practise with. Alone Nythadri could perform the weaves flawlessly. But that was hardly enough to see her to the final Test.

Exhaustion plucked at her senses, and she gazed longingly at her wardrobe, where her violin lay wrapped in its case, but time was a harsh mistress when one wore the rainbow hem. The evening bell was not far off; she had a few moments to herself, but not enough to lose herself to the cathartic beauty of music; there was little point indulging when she would be torn away so soon. The occasional skipped meal when her studies took their toll was inevitable, but she didn’t make a habit of it. I’ll go down to the hall early. If she stayed here she’d only succumb to sleep and find herself wide-awake at an unspeakable hour of the morning. If she took a meandering route and looked purposeful about it, at least she could not be accused of idleness.

But upon opening the door, a harried looking novice stood with fist poised to knock. The girl's eyes widened, and her hand dropped quickly to clench a handful of skirt. The approximation of a curtsy followed. "Lythia Sedai of the Green Ajah requests you for tea tomorrow afternoon, Accepted."


She sent the girl away without admonishment; she seemed intimidated enough. The summons she mulled over curiously, though. A Sister of the Blue had delivered Nythadri to the Tower, and the Blues had subtly plagued her time here - like she were marked for them. For her part Nythadri had been reluctant to pledge to any Ajah. But Green? She'd had never shown either interest or inclination at all.

~*~

The Green's domain was ostentacious, but Nythadri could never quite decide whether she thought it beautiful or gaudy. The many mounted weapons certainly eclipsed notions of frivolity usually associated with these sisters, as did the many wall hangings depicting battle scenes, but there was habitually an air of lightheartedness that Nythadri found incongruous. It seemed strange; the lingering notes of music, the distant laughter, the splashes of colour and vibrancy; they were all things she had once coveted and lamented losing. She had never wished to join the Tinker wagons because of pacifism, but neither had she ever contemplated raising a sword herself; seeing the framed swords and spears filled her not with disgust nor excitement. The atmosphere was actually almost reminiscent of some of the more reputable inns she had played in Caemlyn. But it was not like stepping into a space and finding home.

She did not pay excessive attention to the decor as she passed, but it was natural to contemplate the Ajah when in its home environment. To step within an Ajah's halls was always akin to entering the den of some sleeping animal. There were far more Aes Sedai eyes to take note and find Nythadri's often less than humble attitude offensive, so it was important to take some note of her surroundings; or, particularly, to who shared those surroundings with her. The Green's halls were rarely empty - rumour would have it, not whatever the hour. At a sociable time of the afternoon, there were plenty of sisters and warders around, engaged in whatever activities they deemed of interest; Nythadri hardly paid attention beyond passing deference, gaze only drawn to open doors to check that the sword was not green outlined in gold - that which would denote Lythia's rooms.

When she did find the door, it was shut. Without need to draw breath or compose herself, Nythadri knocked straight away, then took a step back to wait.
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#4
Oh the decor was beautiful. There was no question about it. Green has always been the color associated with life, after all. It was found in nature where every bright green stalk and leaf radiated the essence of flourishing life. But it was also found in the heart and if not tamed, like an unculled overgrowth of vines growing up a building, could leave an emotion that could take over even the strongest of women. For these reasons- life, passion, and emotion -the Green attracted a wide range of Accepted to this shawl where even the coolest of serene Aes Sedai had at their core a reason to see life continue and stand ready for the Last Battle's commencement. But first among all, every Green must bear a love for men. Not necessarily be in love with every male figure, but harbor more of an appreciation for them. Their strong hearts, their pure dedication, their pride, their endurance, their characters, their companionship; however, no shortage of Greens knew what it was to also be in love with one (or two). These women would also not want it any other way.

For these reasons, and others that only an initiated Sister of the Green would know, the decor was beautiful. The colors, the life, and the tributes toward men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to see that life continue as it was. Tapestries depicting scenes from every war could be found in these halls. Crests and emblems from long lost families and armies forgotten everywhere else except for the Tower's long history hung in identification next to archived weapons, helms, plumes, or here and there a full suit of armor. (Many shaped for the figure of a woman as well).

There was a camaraderie in these halls. Outside Lythia's door pairs of warders walked together, often greeting in shoulder claps and light-hearted words. Here, even the broodiest of men cracked a smile and appreciated the moments of relaxation. In fact, until recently, even Caia'li's tall warder was known to join in on the atmosphere. Sisters walked with heads together and unlike in other ajahs, the Green seemed to always put forward a face of unity. Not every pair of women were the deepest of friends, but largely everyone's respect for one another could be seen. They were a unit, after all, and would be in battle just as they were in times of peace. Here, like in other armies, rank and file was an accepted way of life, and it bred harmony, not jealousy.

And then, perhaps what was arguably the Ajah's most beautiful decoration opened that carved out door and peered with beautiful blue eyes across at Nythadri, breaking into a small smile that could stop the heart of a woman to imagine it was she who inspired such a smile. A chiseled, beautiful man....no, nobleman. His blonde hair swept perfectly from that breath-catching face. The slope of his shoulders beneath spoke to a lean, strong man who was perfectly able to fill the role the Amyrlin asked him to fill. A figure of browns and grays might be plain on another, but Blake was pretty enough without needing a flashy wardrobe. And his smile was enough to court the women of the Tower into his palm, without seeming to court them, of course.

Whatever keen thoughts were behind the lifting of one sculpted brow and inspired a sense of coy formality to his smile, his greeting to the Accepted was likewise just as fulfilling. "Good day, Accepted."
Behind his shape could be seen an angled hint of the room beyond much the same look as in the hall but harboring a great deal more ironwork: warmth radiating from blackened lampstands, hooks and mantles to position weapons of her own, and the sculpture-art worked curling along the ceiling. Baerlon was, after all, in Lythia's blood and part of the realm in which her warder could have ruled as king, had she not snatched him up, of course. There was more, but it would not be revealed until Nythadri stepped fully within.

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#5
Beautiful men had never been Nythadri's preference; not that she could not appreciate them as an observer, and Blake was certainly worth looking at. Attention that had momentarily strayed while waiting for the door to open reignited in recognition of that beauty, and she smiled in return as any woman might. Though, with Nythadri, there was always something wry to that smile, like the expression were not so simple as genuine pleasure. In this case Blakeahle Darwyn's perfect Andoran features and the legacy of his bloodline cut a sting of memory. The Darwyn's had been amongst the pinnacles of her father's starry eyes... and inevitably the adulation cast up to those lofty Houses had always prejudiced her against them. Past was past, of course, especially when that past was before the Tower - and not that Warders were ordinary men by any stretch - but she could sense the confident noble bearing beneath him. And it reminded her of people in her past she would rather forget.

He smiles like that because he expects a reaction? A man who knew the power of his smile; she had never found that charming, and maybe the desperate height of her father's ambitions cut her opinion like glass. Her base urge was to dislike him purely because he was an Andoran Lord, and a Darwyn at that, and her wryness stemmed from recognition at how easily she moved to judge on old prejudices. Though neither did she rebuff the attention. No matter how brief or ingenuous, it was still a pleasant distraction. Idly she wondered if her reputation had preceded her; if Lythia had intended her stunning warder to answer the knock because of it. But whether or not that was the case, she dipped into a polite deference touched by her customary droll amusement for such pointless pleasantries. "Greetings, gaidin. I have an appointment with Lythia Sedai."

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#6
When the Master at Arms recognized Nythadri, if he saw anything beyond an Accepted summoned by his Aes Sedai, his manner did not betray it. This time of day might typically see him nearer the warders' building, but if his schedule were repurposed to accomodate this appointment, he shielded such truth from dampening his response. "Come in."
He was polite, but never skirted the lines of propriety, especially when it was his Aes Sedai's honor at stake. However, Blakeahle was not a butler, he was a warder. One of the greats, at that. He strode gracefully away from the Accepted, in one way revealing the path to Lythia and in the other returning to her presence as protector. A trait in her gaidin that Lythia adored, her stately predator.

Over all, her quarters were equal in size to others of the Ajah portioned out in the same manner as the seven Ajahs themselves, excluding that of the Sitters of course. Heavy curtains drawn back on the far wall filled the room with a comfortable warmth. A rug defined the seating area spread before a stone fireplace. None of the upholstery or finishings were ornate, but elegant and simple with their earthy tones. They played second fiddle to her unique decor, both highlighting and complimenting the feeling of harmonious antiquity. Symbolic of the rugged lands of her youth. Every day items were often stone or other metalwork crafted into something functional and beautiful. The surface of a table might be smoothed granite, iron log pokers were curled into artistic handles, and rare stones of speckling colors reveaeled Lythia's taste for the earth's labors.

However, as great as the space identified its decorator, Lythia was not in it. Not to be seen in the archway leading to her personal office, another room of rich woods, boasting almost as many artifacts of Baerlon's Ironworks than it did actual books nor gliding down the corridor that led to the sleeping chamber. At the last moment before disappearing himself, Blake gestured one graceful hand at a tea set waiting on a table in the center of where Lythia and Nythadri would speak. "Help yourself."
Jars containing a few varieties of dried leaves were there as well as a Tower-delivered platter boasting some finger snacks - soft cheeses, crusted bread, tangy marmalade, crunchy carrots.

Which left the Accepted alone. Personally, at least. There were times even for Lythia when she felt like the weapons displayed above the hearth, like others often hung paintings, seemed to howl with the war cries of their former owners. None of them were hers, after all. The double curled horned bow mounted on the left and a crossed pair of Bo Sticks on the right once belonged to a Stone Dog of the Reyn Sept. In the center rested perhaps the only evidence that remained of a friendship between Rand al'Thor and the man he chose to succeed Michael Whiteraven as M'Hael. The hand and a half longsword seemed more elegant than intimidating, although that judgement did not include the image of the man who once wielded it. The scabbard and hilt were branded with herons entwined with the serpent on the Dragon Banner. The only one of its kind, sadly never to be used again. Asha'man al'Mere was trained by White Tower warders and so turned into the most honorable and deadly combination a man could possibly be. He was also Lythia's reason for living. And he was dead.

Lythia turned from her mirror to squeeze Blake's hand and kiss him gently on the cheek when he brought her news of Nythadri's arrival. "Thank you, my friend."
He smiled gently, but affectionately, while brushing back one waving cord of her hair to fix in her favorite pin. The petals of a small five point flower were black-flecked turquoise and curled outward with tendrils of tiny jade stones. Her only jewelry, aside from the serpent ring. By many standards Lythia was never ostentatious, even at her grandest. Although, all these years later, compared to her childhood she felt like a princess in disguise. No matter how she felt, though, it jumped pleasantly against her red-gold hair, through which Blake tucked behind her ears. "You.... Are adorable."
She smiled broadly when he left.

The front door to her quarters opened in the meantime. Through it strolled a dark haired beauty with a face as famous as Lythia's. Lianora and Lythia often helped themselves to visiting one another, Sisters in friendship and name despite what awkward rumors encrusted their reputation. She paused upon seeing an Accepted in the company of a tea set, smiled a pleasant greeting and said she would call upon Lythia later as there was no hurry to her correspondance as to require interrupting what was clearly an appointment. The white haired gaidar in her company nodded a quiet greeting before accompanying Lianora out.

Some minutes later Lythia was standing quietly on the edge of her main living chamber to watch Nythadri. No subterfuge was involved, she was merely an Aes Sedai interested to see how an intriguing Accepted might wait. Would she help herself to afternoon tea or wait for Lythia to join her? Lythia guessed a girl raised by Andor's nobility would wait. As much as the White Tower required one to forsake former lives, certain traits lived forever. Would Nythadri study the culture mounted on Lythia's walls? Any novice could identify the Dragon Symbol, for instance, and were not ignorant of history. Perhaps she would fidget, in agitation or boredom. Lythia knew all about Nythadri, but she knew very little about her.

Blakeahle finally broke the quiet, not by accident, when he brushed gracefully past Lythia. The other Gaidin in the Ajah hall waved inside on a subtle bow when Lythia caught his eye. She entered the room fully after that, "To the winner go the spoils,
" she called after their disappearing backs on a laugh.

"Nythadri, welcome."

She opened her palms with a pleasant smile. As soon as she was close enough, a sense of Nythadri's strength in Saidar touched her knowledge as happened upon reunion of all channelers. "The Games are today."
Spoken as though that explained everything, she crossed over to the rug as her eyes drifted upward. To the sword, "beautiful, isn't it? If only you could have met the man that owned it."
She drew a recentering breath of air and sat. "Please, take your choice of blends, I was not sure what you might like. The first is Saldaean, very flowery. The middle is Cairhienin, dark and bitter. The last is Domani...I suppose there's no need to describe that one."
Her expression hinted at knowing more than she was letting on, "In case you've acquired a taste for it,"
and potentially their topic of discussion for the day. Or at least, the theme for the day. Lythia was no pawn wielding Blue, but she was not without her intrigues.
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#7
Empty. Had she been less restrained, she might have sighed at the icy sensation of a perceived trap upon seeing the vacant tea setting. Aes Sedai were not late; and presumably if her warder was in residence, Lythia herself was here somewhere. Watching, waiting, testing the boundaries of an Accepted not unknown for her arrogance. Nythadri murmured thanks and watched Blake leave. She didn’t sit, though only because it would necessitate rising when the Aes Sedai presented herself. Neither did she look discomfited to be left alone or in uncertain limbo. Lythia was a legend. Most Accepted would use the time to drink every aspect of these apartments - in order to barter details with friends later, or even to bask in the secrecy of the knowledge – but Nythadri’s glance was only cursory. Her gaze drifted to the window, and waited patiently for the seconds to filter towards the Green’s arrival. She was an expert at this sort of stillness; detached, slightly bored, but relentlessly patient.

When the door opened, she turned reflexively to provide an appropriate greeting, but was inwardly surprised to see that it was not Lythia. Lianora’s face was as infamous as Lythia’s, if for vastly different reasons. Kentrillo Orander had ruined Lianora. Though the man in question had ruined quite a bit more than his Aes Sedai wife. Pale eyes followed the Green and her warder out again unperturbed, though she thought it odd the woman did not stay simply because of the presence of an Accepted; even if her business was unimportant, Aes Sedai were not usually so accommodating. Not that Nythadri lingered on wondering this point. When the door clicked shut, her disinterested vigil of the window continued. Posture relaxed but still, like she was no more than an additional piece of furniture.

Until Lythia finally arrived. She turned to watch the gaidin leave, but paid no apparent interest to the snippet of conversation or its explanation. Her greeting to Lythia was cool but polite, much as she would extend to any Aes Sedai despite the warmth of the other woman’s welcome. Her gaze moved to the mounted sword once she realised what was being spoken about, but stayed there only for a moment before turning to Lythia’s expression. Little and less to see in the façade of an Aes Sedai, but who didn’t know who that blade had belonged to? And how the roots of that tale must still burrow in the woman’s heart, smooth face or not.

Her lips flickered at the choice of tea; she’d already understood a subtext from those carefully considered offerings, but the Green did not seem content with the subtle. A hum of laughter left her throat as she sat, fading to an amused smirk. “They are fond of spice,”
she agreed. “But my tastes are perhaps closer to home.”
Nythadri could architect words with the best of them, though Lythia would find her surprisingly blunt if she chose to be the same. After asking after and preparing the Sister’s tea first, she poured her own - the black and bitter blend, though she was free with the sweetener. The amused smirk was not far from her lips, the only ounce of personality beyond her rather carefully controlled exterior.
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#8
She sat with the cup of tea Nythadri prepared, then gestured for the child to partake of anything she liked. Nythadri's reaction to the mention of Arad Doman did not go overlooked, but all Lythia did meanwhile was to pluck a palm of nuts and randomly pop one into her mouth as they chatted. If she knew anything else about Arad Doman, she was not yet ready to bring it up, but given the robust reputation which associated this particular Green with the Black Tower, Lythia likely knew a great deal about the parties involved. She inquired briefly over Nythadri's health and studies, but the chat was plainly cursory. Until she came around to the far more obvious.

"I'm not sure about Fate's intentions. Sitters can be rather difficult to predict, after all, but her machinations are probably akin to mine. Although she'd never tell you. I will be forthcoming, Nythadri. If the Dragon were not reborn, and the world not spiraling toward chaos, you would be guided as we all have been. But the Dragon is consolidating the world under his banner and the Dark One means to reshape the Pattern into his image, the Creator shelter us all. There isn't time. You are aware certainly, you have a wiser head on your shoulders than some Aes Sedai will admit in a child. There isn't time for subtleties of training to guide you along your path at your pace. You are worth the time to foster, and believe me, when the Last Battle does come, you will want to be there as a Sister and not an Accepted."
A hint perhaps of the intentions behind one faction of the Tower concerning Accepted. They will be there, most certainly. Alongside the novices. Every woman who can touch the Source should be rounded up.

As dark and ominious a turn their conversation took, Lythia was oddly cheerful. Quick little smiles lightened the mood a she carried on to the next topic at hand. The former being only a preface to what she was leading into. To set the mood, somewhat, but they ate and drank calmly, the tied window treatments streamed in sunlight, and there was no haste to their conversation. Simply two women conversing over the fact. It just so happened some people may not be able to face so dire of facts, but women of the Green Ajah were not just anyone. "I have always been fond of posing this question to Accepted. Probably because it was posed to me, and later regretted my hasty answers. If you had one word to describe each of the Ajahs. One word that summarized everything that ajah embodied and represented in our servitude to the world, what would you choose. Take your time and think about it."
She leaned back, seemingly absorbed in the process of sipping her tea, but the light in her eyes never left. She was sincerely interested in Nythadri's point of view.
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#9
When it suited her, Nythadri found it easy to be affable. Small talk might not be something she sought for amusement’s sake, but she was adept at the niceties nonetheless. Only those most practised at observing the subtleties of another might notice there was always something quite reserved about her, despite her pleasantness and sense of ease. No lack of confidence, just an absence; the faint trace of boredom as she smiled and ate and chatted. Lythia’s forthright manner as they forged towards more interesting topics, though, earned a new attention; some insignificant shift in Nythadri’s posture, an extra spark of intensity to her gaze. Like she was really listening now, instead of playing a polite role in a game of social banalities. Much as she had always tried to distance herself from the snare of daes’dae mar, her life was shadowed by the paranoia of forces beyond her control shaping her life. Lythia admitted intention, and spoke in a most un-Aes Sedai like way. Or perhaps it was just a Green way. Some would be horrified by the idea of children fighting and dying on the front lines, but though Nythadri had never truly considered it, it did not garner a deep reaction beyond simple acceptance. When Daryen’s subjects had shivered in the face of a channeler’s power, it had felt right. Channelers were more than mere men and women, but with the gift came the responsibility.

Wise head on my shoulders? Not a compliment she would have expected from many Aes Sedai’s lips, given her past transgressions. Nythadri was amused. This new tact was refreshing, even if it was just for the novelty of it. Clever, or honest? She was still deciding when Lythia posed her question. Over the rim of her teacup, Nythadri smirked. Years of lessons marched single file through her mind. Logic, healing, law, battle, ter’angreal, knowledge, causes. Simple descriptors of each Ajah, thought without really thinking; which, of course, was not what Lythia was asking. If she wanted to know if I bear any interest in the Green Ajah, she might have just asked. Of course, the answer to that would have been a rather blunt no. The idea of carrying steel; of war and strategy, of blood and passion, incited no inflamed heart in Nythadri. Many girls who choose Green knew early on the path they would take, and Nythadri had never dreamed of a green shawl. Or any shawl, truth told.

She didn’t care for the question, or to be so limited in expression. Her general attitude was apathy, and if Lythia was looking for insight she had little to give – aside from her reluctance to answer the question. Each ajah had its merits as well as its failings, and for Nythadri choosing an ajah had little to do with what virtues it embodied. It was a transaction; a choosing of allies that would place her within a greater structure of ally and enemy. One she was in no hurry to see through. She did think carefully as bid, but not about her choice of descriptors. Was Lythia the type to take offence if she snubbed the question? Would she read arrogance, or blunt honesty? Nythadri had no wish to offend, but neither was she the sort to pander to a favourable impression when it went against the grain.

“I’ve never found much use for labels, Aes Sedai. Every ajah might have its public niche, but if each could be so neatly embodied in one simple word…”
she shrugged, “then I will admit to struggling to find a place within any of them.”
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#10
Lythia sat back in her chair, it really was a comfortable seat. The cushions she'd had restuffed a few times since its original purchase, but the svelte cloth was warm and inviting. She always felt nestled when sitting in this chair, as though she wanted to draw up her legs and sit under a heavy afghan next to the roaring fireplace. Of course right now there was no fire, and she sat with her ankles crossed not tucked under herself. Although her lips twinged with amusement while watching the Accepted muse over her question. How would the girl react to that? An Aes Sedai of Lythia's name demonstrating such a pose of familiarity with an Accepted. As interesting an experiment it would be, in the end Lythia remained as she was. There were some traditions, after all, that even Lythia Krean would not break so casually.

Hmm.. She regarded the Accepted's answer without offense and minimal surprise. She truly was interested in Nythadri's point of view. Not as though there were some magical pattern that underlaid all Greens' perception of their Sisters. Although, admittedly, she really only cared what she saw in the Greens. Everyone had the incorrect perception of the Green Ajah, including Lythia herself, until she joined the Ajah. Then, it was still some years before she truly understood. Now that she had, she was willing to do anything to protect it. Anything.

"Hmm."
She mused out loud and easily maintaining the Accepted's gaze without hiding her consideration. Nythadri had her fair share of scrutiny under Aes Sedai difficult stares and Lythia might have an astounding level of energy to her, but there were Sisters out there who could easily out-intimidate. The memory of Kaydrienne's disapproving face flashed across her mind. Lythia's hasty answer had been far more disrespectful when Mother had posed the same question. She most certainly lived to regret her crude answer.

Nythadri's answer was surprising in her refusal to participate. Lythia was not offended, not because she believed the girl philosophically averse to answering, but because Lythia didn't care what her choice of words might have been. That wasn't the point of the question, but as that piece of the game was set aside for a moment, Lythia let it stay there.

She gestured at the room around them. There were certainly enough weapons to constitute the environment the tapestries depicted. However, as Lythia's eyes roamed across her walls, there was sentiment to her expression. They were not decorations, and she held a working skill with only a few of them, although in a pinch she would use anything to defend herself. She looked upon the Aiel crafts with a smirk for the one that'd carried them. The mounted pair of daggers had made poor Logan's eyes widen to discs the first time Lythia picked them up and turned on him. He always let me win, that buggar. And the strongest sense of connection and partnership - love, although they'd never been married - softened away the playfulness dancing her cheekbones' mirthful expression when she looked away from Shadow's dragon-etched sword.

She suspected Nythadri was astute enough to notice Lythia's display. "I will volunteer an answer. An Ajah is not so much what it is they do. That is why we teach the novices that all Aes Sedai have elements of all Ajahs in them. What is more important is understanding why they do those things. Greens did not fight in the Trolloc Wars because our preparations for the Last Battle gave us the best position to lead. We do not work aside our Black Tower brothers because we think the White Tower alone is not sufficient. Not all of us glory in blood. Not all of us carry a weapon when we travel. We do not hover near conflict because our passions place us in the heat of battle. Our passion is not fighting at all. In fact, it's the opposite."


She casually selected a few more bites to eat and popped one in her mouth. She could dine with the finest of flatware when she wanted, but lacking that kind of social pressure at the moment, she always reverted back to her upbringing. Where food was popped greedily in her mouth when not hidden away in her pockets for later. "I once knew this young man. His name was Logan DiVega."
The loyalty and passion to her story from before took a more playful turn. It was obvious she knew this young man more than a passing acquaintance. He may disagree, but to this day long after the brief years she knew him, to consider him a good friend. "He avoided conflict almost as fiercely as he avoided women, moreso when those women were Aes Sedai."
Oh and how he tried! "But he was a good fighter. One of the best. And a thoughtful, loyal man. The characteristics of the most upstanding of warders. But i've often wondered why such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken man would come to the White Tower to be a warder in the first place if he detested fighting so much. Seems contrary to the life of a warder, does it not?"
She shrugged. Perhaps he might have served a Brown, Logan was fond of reading after all. But Lythia didn't truly believe that was where Logan's character ended. He always harbored something under the surface she couldn't quite grasp, like a camouflaged fish swimming on the bottom of a stream.

"He loved living. Specifically, dedicating his life in such a way as to preserve life for everyone else by taking the burden of the world from their shoulders and onto his own. He did not walk into fights because he loved the thrill of it, he went so others did not. So someone else could have a normal, peaceful life of the sort we cannot."


She looked poignantly at the Accepted. From what she knew of Nythadri's background, of House Vanditera in Caemlyn, Lythia's personal area of expertise, and of the unusual circumstances that led to Nythadri's six month long punishment on the Farm, then she expected to strike close to home. The Accepted was dallying with her aspirancy choice. She outright said she did not feel a place in any of the Ajahs. Lythia believed it was because she didn't understand, as most didn't, what it was the Greens did. They loved life. They loved living, themselves and preserving the normal way of life for everyone else. Their color was the essence of flourishing life, after all. They laughed and cried and loved and did not waste their one chance in the Pattern by working so hard at Daes Dea'mar they forgot what this was all for.

She also believed the Accepted would not appreciate the round-about tactic Lythia took. She didn't want to dispirit the girl, nor make her shut down after winning the rare moment of participation so far. So it was time to drive her idea home.

She led in with an innocent tone, "We don't teach much about the Black Tower. I try to explain their ways to Green Aspirants when I can, but rarely to other Accepted and most Aes Sedai would agree its extraneous knowledge. Despite men being relatively simple to understand, creatures of action and loyalty and focus as they are, and knowing Asha'man are merely regular men burdened by difficult futures, one really has to be there to understand."
Lythia's eyes narrowed in slight consideration. "You've heard tales of their Tree, i'm sure. The barbaric thing."
She shrugged. The strapping triangle reserved for novice runaways was only slightly less extreme. "For instance, do you know what they do to one of their own that commits a crime short of alliance with the Shadow? It can be rather cruel."
For someone of Lythia's dispassion to say such a thing gave it gravity. The Black Tower was a hard, hard place. It's leaders hard as stone and just as unshakable.

However unlike the one about Logan, this tale had another point. Lythia was closely watching Nythadri, although her tone implied she was not attempting to incriminate. Nor was Nythadri in trouble at all. The opposite. If the child had used her one contact of power to the outside world to accomplish powerful, but personal ends, it was actually a tribute to her ingenuity. An attribute Lythia could put to good use in a Green.

She crossed her legs the other way to change positions a bit, studied the tea that had cooled to the temperature she preferred to take larger gulps rather than the teenie sips of earlier, finished it off then set the cup aside for now. "Even I had a bit of a time of it, and as you can imagine I have a nice position to keep up with their news. You should really be careful, though. And not just with him, although men are far more delicate creatures than they would lead you to believe, but when agents act on your behalf, you should ensure they are qualified to adequately cover their tracks before it gets back to you."


Then she played her card. "I will have you know I am more than happy to protect an aspirant of the Green Ajah. And her interests, to an extent."
Interests in affairs - or people - if necessary, and it seemed Nythadri had them. She twinkled with the forwardness of her offer.

This wasn't so dirty a trade as it sounded. It was sisterhood, if Nythadri was interested in joining it, and if not, Lythia would do nothing to act against her. No other Aes Sedai would be so caring about the affairs of an Accepted. Let alone tell her so. Greens protected many aspects of life, and like a mother cat pawing over her kittens, they were extremely loyal with their own.
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